Thursday, April 20, 2017

Tomorrow is the 162nd anniversary...

...of the Lager Beer Riot in Chicago. (But you already knew that.)

According to Wikipedia, on April 21, 1855 Mayor Levi Boone, a great-nephew of Daniel Boone, renewed enforcement of an old local ordinance mandating that taverns be closed on Sundays. Boone, a Baptist and temperance advocate, believed that the Sabbath was profaned by having drinking establishments open on Sunday.

The move was seen as targeting Germans and Irish Catholics, who had immigrated to Chicago in large numbers during the previous fifteen years. (I'm pretty sure I had Irish ancestors in Chicago at the time, but I'm also pretty sure they spent their Sundays in church.)

On April 21, after several tavern owners were arrested for selling beer on Sunday, protesters clashed with police near the Cook County Court House.

Angry immigrants stormed the downtown area and the mayor ordered the swing bridges opened to stop further waves of protesters from crossing the Chicago River. This left some trapped and police fired at those stuck on the Clark Street Bridge. The riot resulted in at least one death and about sixty arrests.

The prohibition was repealed after Boone was turned out of office the following year.

Since the Germans in Chicago were largely concentrated on the city's North Side (and since we were just in Bridgeport recently), we decided to take our weekly Hike up there last night in remembrance of the riot.

We left 1212 W. Flournoy at five o'clock sharp, as usual, and hopped on the Blue Line at Racine and got off at Addison, which straddles the border between the community areas of Irving Park and Avondale. We then walked about a half-mile east to White Castle, at the three-way intersection of Addison, Elston and Kedzie.

Despite the current popularity of the movie The Founder, about Ray Kroc and McDonald's, White Castle was probably the nation's first fast-food chain. Founded in 1921 by Walt Anderson and Billy Ingram (how come there's no movie about them?) in Wichita, Kansas, the restaurants were built to resemble Chicago's own Water Tower, with octagonal buttresses, crenelated towers and a parapet wall. As you can see from the picture above the chain has updated the design a little. (The guys -- John, Eric, Alan, Michael and Jack -- were in too big a hurry to pose for a picture.)

After fortifying ourselves with a hearty dinner of sliders and fries we continued east on Addison, passing massive Lane Tech High School. (That's only one small section of the school. Why didn't I take a picture of the whole structure?)

Originally opened in 1908, Lane Tech is one of the city's oldest and largest high schools. The current location was completed in 1934 and, despite its name, is now one of the city's eleven selective enrollment schools that prepare students for college. Lane boasts among its alumni such diverse luminaries as Eric's sister, Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller, the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, former Governor Rod Blagojevich and singer Francesco Paolo LoVecchi. Never heard of that last guy? He was known professionally as Frankie Laine. Where do you suppose he got that last name?

(If you want to read more about Lane Tech, click here and here.)

We then turned south on Western and east on Roscoe Street (that's a lot of directions!) to enter the tiny neighborhood of Roscoe Village.

But before I get into that, it's worth recalling Riverview Park, which stood on the patch of land just south of Lane from 1904 to 1967. The amusement park held an almost mythic place in my family's history and although I never got to go there I heard many stories from my older siblings about such rides as the Bobs and Shoot the Chutes, which I swear you could see from the Kennedy Expressway.

Roscoe Village, which I suspect was largely the creation of local realtors (I had never heard of it until the late 1980s), takes its name from the street which provides its "main drag." It's less than a mile long between Western and Ravenswood Avenues, but it has evolved into a charming commercial stretch filled with cool restaurants, small retailers and boutiques. (I remember one breakfast spot years ago at the corner of Roscoe and Damen -- long gone, of course -- which offered some sort of a discount to patrons who showed up in their pajamas.) After Damen the street turns decidedly residential until the Metra bridge which is painted "Welcome to Roscoe Village" on the east side and "The Village Within the City" on the west side.

It was time now to board the Brown Line at Paulina, which overlooks a bustling stretch of Lincoln Avenue. My son John mentioned that he volunteered at Rush Hospital with a woman named Paulina, which she pronounces "Paul-eena." He wondered aloud if Paul-eena lived anywhere near Paul-ina.

Eric suggested we try Jefferson Park for next week's Hike and I have to admit it's one community area we have yet to explore. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather!

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